The Netflix Report

Movie reviews from my Netflix queue. Highly personal and opinionated!

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Monday, April 17, 2006


If you follow the film industry, you’ve heard of this movie not for its own merits, but because of its experiment in distribution strategy. A production of high definition cable network HDNet, the movie was released simultaneously to theaters, DVD rental/sale, and the HDNet cable channel. I watched it on TV rather than through Netflix, so I can’t comment on any special features or commentary that might be on the disc.

The movie is a throwback to director Soderbergh’s independent roots (Sex, Lies, and Videotape). He shot on digital film using available light and employed non-actors who lived and worked in the small towns on the Ohio/West Virginia border where the story is set.

The plotline involves a relationship triangle between people who work together in a small factory that hand-makes rubber baby dolls in a laborious, somewhat antiquated manual process. Something unexpected happens to upset the mundane monotony of their lives and then we watch how it plays out. I won’t give away the surprises, as they are necessary for building any sense of tension you might have. After seeing the film, I read some reviews online and they almost all gave away the key developments and even the outcome in some cases. If you are planning to see the movie, do yourself a favor and don’t read reviews first!

The movie has polarized reviewers. Some blast it to shreds for being mind-numbingly pointless and rambling with no effective payoff. Others praise it as an incredibly insightful commentary on the lives of small town working class people who struggle to get by with no time or energy left for emotion or action that could change their repetitive existence. I saw some of both.

I liked the naturalistic low-key style of the movie and the performances. These real people seemed like real people. After the initial introduction to the routine was established (which is very slow and deliberate), the mounting tension of the plot complication was intriguing. The problem is the denouement. The end of the movie feels like a let-down and I found myself saying... Yeah? So what? I have no idea what the director wanted to communicate. I had no sense of payoff for my time and involvement. (One reviewer phrased it as "a giant F-U to the audience.")

Parents note: The slow pace and adult relationships theme will bore children, but there is nothing in the movie that makes it inappropriate for them to be in the same room.


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